The Alaska State House of Representatives have dealt TransCanada a winning hand by approving a license for the company to begin the start of a gas pipeline project that supporters say could about 4.5 billion cubic feet of gas per day from the North Slope to the energy-hungry Lower 48. The price tag: $26- to $30 billion. By a vote of 24-16, the legislators passed the bill. One very happy person with the vote is Gov. Sarah Palin. A supporter of the TransCanada plan, she has been lobbying legislators to pass the measure. It next goes to the state Senate where senators have until Aug. 2 to vote on the project. But here's the catch. The vote doesn't really mean that the first shovel of dirt will be turned on the 1,715-mile proposed gas line. If the Senate says OK, the vote will give TransCanada $500 million in seed money to begin the process of applying for all the necessary federal permits. And there's a wild card in this deck. That's in the form of a rival project by BP and ConocoPhillips. Only they aren't asking for any seed money from the state. And, they, along with ExxonMobil are the largest leaseholders on the North Slope. TransCanada does not have and leaseholds on the North Slope. Some legislators, including Palin, have been critical of what they say is a lack of details from BP and ConocoPhillips on their plan, which is called the Denali. Their entire plan is 12-15 pages. The plan from TransCanada is in two, three-inch binders. TransCanada filed its plan under the provisions of the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act. The three supermajors all balked at filing a plan under the state's guidelines--they all said the rules were too restrictive. Stay tuned. More to come. From the boardrooms of TransCanada, BP and ConocoPhillips to pipeline contractors, all eyes are going to be watching the Alaska Senate on Aug. 2 to see what isn't the end of the story, but just the beginning. –John A. Sullivan, News Editor, Oil and Gas Investor,,